Changing schools: leaving the old school

Coping with change

Changing schools: leaving the old school

This section helps parents, carers and teachers to:

  • Prepare a child with ADHD for moving as smoothly as possible from one school to another, typically when leaving their junior school for high school.

On this page:

  1. The process of change ↓
  2. Handling change ↓
  3. Giving the right support ↓

The process of change

Many children with ADHD like to follow consistent routines, rules and guidelines; changing schools may therefore be difficult, and cause a range of emotions.

In order to manage the process of moving schools, parents and carers need to:

  • Carefully support the child through the period of change
  • Make sure the current school maintains existing support while required
  • Transfer information about the child to the new school. For example, the Baso-fiche form is used in Belgium to share preliminary information about all children moving from primary to secondary school. It includes information on skills, interests, special needs, care provided within the school, external care and home life.

These guides are intended to aid teachers, parents and carers when planning a smooth handover to the child’s new school.

Planning a smooth handover to a new school (for use by parents)

A discussion guide to aid parents and carers plan a smooth handover to the child’s new school


Planning a smooth handover to a new school (for use by teachers)

A discussion guide to aid teachers plan a smooth handover when the child moves onto a new school


It may be helpful to talk to the child about how they feel about the coming changes. This template cartoon strip may enable them to start sharing their thoughts on leaving their old school, and their hopes for the new school.

This is me

A cartoon strip to enable children to start sharing their thoughts on leaving their old school, and their hopes for the new school


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Handling change

 Changing schools is a daunting step for any child; for a child with ADHD it may involve a number of particular challenges. These fall into two key areas:

Practical barriers, for example:

  • Changes in routine
  • New place
  • New ways of doing things.

Emotional barriers, for example:

  • Leaving friends
  • Ending relationships with supportive teachers who have come to understand the child.

Handling practical change

The following actions may help to prepare the child for their new school.

Discuss with them what to expect, for example:

  • What the new school is like
  • When they will move to the new school
  • Which of their friends will go with them.

Explain what you will help them to do, for example:

  • Find out about the new school
  • Visit the new school.   

Try to make the move feel gradual. For example:

  • Try to visit the school a few times, perhaps with a friend
  • Introduce the child to key teachers before the start of the new term.    

Emotional change

Leaving behind relationships with other children and teachers is part of the process of leaving a school. This can prove difficult for a child with ADHD, particularly when one teacher has looked after the child and knows them well.

Children and teachers will have developed an understanding of the child’s ADHD and established a relationship with them during their time at the school. Steps you can take to help with the emotional change of leaving a current school include:

Reassure the child that the new teachers will understand about their ADHD.

Make sure that where possible the things that worked best in the current school will continue and be built on in the new school.

Try to manage the child’s expectations about what will be new.

Reassure them that they will: 

  • Make new friends
  • Keep existing friends.
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Giving the right support

Support from the current school may gradually reduce as the date for leaving approaches. This can happen because the school may:

  • See it as a way of ‘letting go’ of the child
  • Want to prioritise support for younger children.

To ensure that your child continues to receive the right type and level of support, you could take the following steps:

Request a continual review of your child’s progress

Identify who can help you make your case for keeping support, for example:

  • Your child’s main teacher
  • A special needs teacher.

Keep a record of incidents at school, or other evidence of the need for continued support.

Consider your priorities if support is withdrawn. For example:

  •  What are the most important needs to address, for example, help with managing time.
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Coghill D, et al. Child Adol Psychiatry Mental Health 2008; 2(1): 31.

O’Regan F. How to teach and manage children with ADHD (2010). Nottingham, UK: LDA.

These materials have been produced with practical advice and guidance provided by the expert European ADHD Awareness Taskforce.